If the Shoe Fits… Buy 10,000 Pairs

My feet have cost me more than $500 so far. Sometimes I think life would’ve been easier if I just chopped them off and walked on my hands all the way to Katahdin. Here’s the mistakes I’ve made so you can avoid dishing out the cash for your dogs. (Also I am cracking up at this article because it’s literally just feet pics. You can’t escape them.)

Damn, still in the shoes.


Test your shoes

I had not run more than twelve miles in my altras before I took them thru hiking. I also did not walk with a weighted pack on my back for more than two days and more than forty miles. I was not used to a zero drop shoe — and it showed within the first week of thru hiking. I usually ran my 20 milers on Saturday’s in my Brooks Adrenalines, not my Altras. During my first week of thru hiking, my feet were hurting so bad I soaked them five times a day in cold springs, meticulously massaged them with a cork roller ball, and did a whole stretching routine. And my achilles STILL had me hobbling up and down the trail, barely able to move my feet.

Ooo one sock off!!

New Shoes (Pt. 1)

I burst into Mountain Crossings at Neels Gap — desperate for a change. I was cursing myself for not going to a running store beforehand and having them analyze my gait and help me find a shoe (which you very much should do!!). Neels Gap had a smaller selection of shoes than I was hoping for, and no one working that day knew too much about shoes. I picked the ones that felt the best and gleefully chucked my altras up into the tree. I regretted my new shoes for the next 200 miles.

For free????

They were better than the Altras, but the tops of my feet erupted in blisters where the laces rubbed every time it rained. My feet looked like mummies with the amount of leukotape on them. The only good thing to come out of those shoes was that I got to send disgusting foot pics to all my friends with my blisters glistening with antiseptic lotion. The shoes were incredibly heavy and I tripped over everything. My heels felt like rubber bands two stretches from snapping. I hobbled into camp every night and had to do a lot of stretches each morning just to get moving again. No Name looked at me with concern as I walked stiff legged up the trail in front of her. “I think you need to change your shoes.” She’d say. “I just did! These are brand new!” I’d reply indignantly. She’d shake her head, and I’d keep limping. In short, I was not having a great time.

Me, not having a great time.


New Insoles (Pt 1)

In Hot Springs, I exchanged my insoles as my superfeet were starting to wear out already. I went with the green ones, as recommended by someone at the outfitter. I asked him when he thought a good time to get a new pair of shoes was. He told me mine would last for about 700 miles. I almost started crying. I walked out with the green insoles, and by the time I got to uncle Johnnys, I wanted to burn them. The green insoles weren’t right for my feet either, and were now making my arches hurt in addition to my heels. I had, yet again, messed up.

This worked for like .2 miles!

With my feet, I continually made the decision to trust someone else’s gut other than my own. At Neels gap, I should’ve hitched into town and went to a running store instead with a better selection of shoes. At hot springs, I should’ve went with the same insoles that I had before instead of the less cushioned ones.

The Right Shoe… AND the Right Insole!

It is such a beautiful thing when you find the right shoes.

Finally, at the outfitter in Damascus, I decided to listen to my friend No Name — and most importantly, I decided to listen to my own judgement. There was a really helpful person there who knew his way around shoes, and asked me what I’m used to running in. Until then, I hadn’t even considered judging what kind of shoe I should wear on trail against what kind of shoe I usually run in. For some reason, thru hiking shoes and running shoes had become separated in my head. To trail for my ultra, I would always wear brooks adrenalines. He pointed me in the direction of the cascadias — and I have never looked back since.

Earlier, I capped out at 21 miles, and usually would be in a lot of pain when I got into camp. With the cascadias, I’ve pulled week of 17 mile days along with a 23 and a 19 sprinkled in. I was still in pain towards the end — but so much less than with my other shoes.

How happy I am with feet that hurt a normal amount!

In Short

On trail, it becomes about what you can do to make yourself the most comfortable in the extreme discomfort you will experience 90% of the time. For me, I’ve been having an incredible amount of foot problems. I was doing everything I could with stretching, icing, elevating and resting — but sometimes, you’ve got to change the shoe you’re taking every step with. The way the shoe holds your foot will affect the way your foot feels. It’s not rocket science — but sometimes it’s hard to accept that. It’s a lot easier to spend money on a new pair of shoes than on an expensive trip to the doctors. If you let your feet get too bad without taking care of them, it could be where you wind up. And don’t actually buy 10,000 pairs of the shoe even if you do like them — if you’re running ultras or doing a thru hike, chances are, your feet will grow.

Me, walking away from all my foot problems… ahaha.

Additionally, everyone’s foot is different. Altras work for a ton of my friends, but I’m just not to the zero drop life yet. For me, I’ll still take my eight millimeter drop Brooks. Just because all your friends are trying altras does not mean you should tear up your Achilles as well. And, sometimes, even when a shoe guru is talking to you — if something does not feel right, listen to your body. Listen to what they’re saying with a grain of salt, but always trust your gut. At least then even if you are wrong, then you know it’s based on a decision YOU yourself made. So, try out your shoes. Go on a long walk. Trust yourself. And burn any shoe that hurts. Life is too short to walk in shoes that hurt.

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Comments 3

  • Shocktop : May 30th

    Thank you for advice I need to tattoo on my feet so I don’t forget! And for your usual humor and the progressive foot pics. Happy trails!

  • thetentman : May 30th

    I feel your pain. My feet are size 12 4E. I always buy another pair when I find one that fits. Over the years because of hiking, they have grown. When I was 18 before a lot of hiking I wore size 11. Good luck to you.

    Oh, and you have ugly feet, no offense.


  • Cashew : May 30th

    Amazing! I’ve been enjoying your posts and this one just hit the spot. Congratulations on happy feet! I think there are a lot of us who need to hear that we shouldn’t put up with sore feet/legs just thinking we’re not tough enough.


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